Disclaimer: This review of Monsters of Men has some spoilers from the first two books in the Chaos Walking series. It’s recommended that you read those two books before reading this review. You can read the reviews for The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer.
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness is the third and final full novel in the Chaos Walking series. The prior books in the series include The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking 1) and The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking 2). The first book was a fast paced adventure, with the sequel slowing down in pace to tell a more psychological story. Monsters of Men combines the formula of the two books before it for an extremely strong finish to an incredible series.
The Chaos Walking series follows the adventures of Todd Hewitt, a boy who is now becoming an adult. At the beginning of the series, Todd is confined to Prentisstown, a community consisting of only men. Todd has been told that women no longer exist after a war was fought on New World. New World is the planet in which this story takes place, and interestingly, New World comes with its side effects. On New World, the thoughts and feelings of all men and animals are openly broadcasted; this is referred to in the book as Noise.
In the first book, Todd discovers a girl named Viola who has crash landed on the planet. The crash unfortunately killed her parents who were flying the ship. The appearance of Viola disturbs the peace in Prentisstown and causes the mayor and his loyal soldiers to seek her out, but Todd opts to try and protect her. Todd’s guardians also tell him that he must now leave Prentisstown before the mayor gets to him. This eventually leads to Todd and Viola seeking out a town called Haven at the end of the book, however, Mayor Prentiss has already taken over the city.
In The Ask and the Answer, Mayor Prentiss asserts his dominance over Haven, renaming it New Prentisstown. Eventually, a resistance group lead by women emerges (called The Answer). A civil war is fought between these factions, with Todd and Viola being caught on opposite sites of the fight. Mayor Prentiss is also grooming Todd to make him his loyal subject, and he also begins to teach Todd how to control his Noise so that his thoughts are no longer open to everybody.
The wild cards in this entire plot so far are the Spackle, who are the native creatures of the land. Mayor Prentiss decides to enslave these creatures, thus making them rebel at the end of The Ask and the Answer. This leads to right into Monsters of Men, which is essentially a full on war between the two human factions and the Spackle.
Monsters of Men picks up right where the last book left off. Right away we’re thrown into a showdown Mayor Prentiss, Todd and the Spackle. This happens as Viola is briefing the new arrivals from the Old World. As with the second book, we get to read the perspectives of Todd and Viola back to back; but this time we also get a third perspective sporadically added to the mix; the perspective of one of the Spackle.
The Spackle narrative voice is an interesting one as the Spackle use their noise to universally communicate with one another. They also assign each being a metaphorical name that relates to one of their characteristics. These sections of the narrative help to break the notion that the Spackle are simply vicious beasts with no rhyme or reason. We get to empathize with and understand their motives.
The beauty of Patrick Ness’ writing is that he can truly put you into the mind of these characters, in ways that seem difficult for an average writer to achieve. Every character’s thoughts are pronounced and presented in a way that is unique to them, making them feel authentic. With this level of attachment to each character, it’s easy for the author to create moments that pull at your heart strings and curl your lip in anger at what transpires.
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Though we never get to see things from Mayor Prentiss’ point of view, he is without a doubt one of the best written characters in the book. His character keeps you guessing all the way through. You can never quite figure out whether he is a misunderstood villain with a good heart, or a deceptive mind-controller who’s plotting against everyone. Todd and Mayor Prentiss share a close bond throughout this book that is compelling all the way through.
Not more can be said about Monsters of Men without giving away important plot points. I’ve read many trilogies where I was dissatisfied with the ending, but Monsters of Men provides a strong conclusion to what has been an excellent series. I will end this off by simply suggesting that everyone read the Chaos Walking books.
– Featured image from The Book Castle